Why Do Folks Depart Their Jobs, Precisely? The Total Purpose Can Be Summed Up in a Few Sentences

As a leadership trainer and consultant, I spend a lot of time browsing exit interview reports, feedback tools, and employee engagement surveys to determine the causes of employee turnover in client companies.

Let me simplify the root of the problem. If you are a senior executive, or a human resource manager dealing with a revolving door in your company, first take a look at your managers.

In Gallup’s 2013 study, State of the American Workplace, Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, summed up in one short sentence why your company’s employee turnover may be high:

The biggest decision you make in your job – bigger than anyone else – is who to call a manager. If you name the wrong manager, nothing can fix that bad decision. No compensation, no benefits – nothing.

It’s the manager.

This is the conclusion Gallup drew from decades of data and interviews with 25 million employees. But here we are in the middle of a pandemic in 2021, and organizations continue to get it wrong. We’ve heard this tune before: people leave managers, not companies.

The quickest way to stop employee turnover is to hire and develop those who have leadership skills. Far too often, decision-makers reward behaviors that are mistakenly perceived as real leadership qualities: trust, charisma, extroversion, leadership presence, and the like. Worse, they focus too much on past performance and overestimate the importance of resumes, hard skills, and technical expertise.

The reality is that the most narcissistic bosses with psychopathic tendencies also have these traits, much to the detriment of their teams. As decision makers identify their current and future leaders, they should look for the valued traits that research has confirmed will drive employees to work at the highest level.

1. Empathy

In one notable study, empathy rose to the top as the most critical driver of overall performance for executives. In particular, the ability to listen and react with empathy. Naturally, a leader who shows full empathy fosters strong personal relationships and productive collaboration. They will reflect on the circumstances of their team, understand their challenges and frustrations, and know that these emotions are as real as their own. This helps develop perspective and gives team members an opportunity to help each other.

2. Shared accountability

The next time you face an obstacle, turn the “We have a problem” narrative into an opportunity to find solutions by encouraging and encouraging open dialogue with your team. This requires the safe exchange of ideas and the practice of non-judgmental listening. By participating in the decision-making process, your team will feel a sense of contribution and responsibility in building a culture of accountability and respect. This culture – one that empowers and nurtures people through interpersonal relationships – will take your business or career in a direction you can be proud of.

3. Vulnerability

When it comes to leadership skills in work cultures of trust and transparency, an emerging skill is often cited that transcends both trust and charisma: vulnerability. Over 42 million people have seen Brené Brown’s historic Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. Since it went viral, vulnerability has established itself as an important soft skill to develop as a leader. One way to develop your vulnerability is to share stories.

In their book Encouraging the Heart: A Leadership’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others, leadership experts James Kouzes and Barry Posner emphasize the importance of leaders using storytelling to develop trust. The authors quote Howard Gardner, a renowned Harvard scholar, psychologist, and educator:

The elaborate creation and articulation of stories is an integral part of the leader’s calling. Stories speak to both parts of the human mind – it’s reason and emotion. And I also suggest that it is identity stories – narratives that help individuals think and feel about who they are, where they come from and where they are going – that constitute the most powerful weapon in the Führer’s literary arsenal.

Telling a story about a critical error as an example is one way to facilitate a naturally more vulnerable conversation. When you plan on using and executing storytelling, you will reap the benefits it has in building trust.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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